EDINBURGH – Edinburgh Police’s first K-9 in nearly 40 years is now patrolling the streets after a donation was made in honor of a deceased officer.
Skye, a six-year-old Labrador retriever, was given to Edinburgh Police Service earlier this month. An official donation dedication ceremony was held Friday at the Guardian K9 in Columbus. Guardian K9 is a daycare, training and overnight accommodation for dogs that also offers police dog training.
The donation was made by the 550 Foundation in honor of Charlestown Police Sgt. Ben Bertram, killed in the line of duty during a December 2018 police chase in southern Indiana. The 550 Foundation was created to carry on Bertram’s legacy of protecting and serving the community and his love of police dogs by providing free K-9s, equipment and training to agencies in need, said Sean Pendleton, chairman of the foundation and owner of Guardian K9. .
K-9 Skye is trained in narcotics and tracking, and her journey to Edinburgh Police began last year. His handler at the time, a friend of Pendleton’s, approached him saying that his current police department would not allow him to continue using Skye’s abilities.
“He said his talents were wasted and asked what we could do to get him to another department,” Pendleton said.
Pendleton did remedial training with Skye to ensure she was ready to go. Once this was done, the foundation’s five-member board asked departments to send in nominations for the foundation to decide which department Skye would serve. The council includes Pendleton, his wife, a sheriff’s deputy and two members of Bertram’s family, Pendleton said.
The council then deliberated before unanimously choosing Edinburgh as Skye’s recipient. Pendleton recused himself from the move as he previously worked for Edinburgh Police.
“I left the council to deliberate and it was a unanimous decision for Edinburgh to get the dog,” he said. “I contacted Chief (Doyne) Little about it, and they were thrilled.”
In Edinburgh, Skye will patrol with her handler, Officer Darren Koors, to conduct narcotics investigations. Skye will also be used to help track and find lost children, and will not bite, Little said.
Since Skye began patrolling earlier this month, she’s been deployed more than 20 times, found narcotics eight times and helped secure eight arrests, Little said.
Skye will soon no longer be the only K-9 with Edinburgh Police. A second K-9, Kira, will soon join the ranks.
Kira, a two-year-old Belgian Malinois, is currently in training with his dog handler, Officer Ryan Coy. Once her training is complete, she can track suspects and be used to help apprehend them, Little said.
The department purchased Kira using funds raised by the public. Earlier this year, Little came before city council asking for permission to reinstate the department’s K-9 program and seek donations to fund it.
The need to reinstate the program stems from the city’s problems with drug-related crime. Drug-related crime has been up and down for several years, but it has been steadily increasing this year, Little said earlier this year.
Since the department began accepting donations for the program, the department has received about $43,000, far more than the $16,000 Guardian K9 quote the city voted in June. The extra funds are set aside for future K-9 expenses, Little said.
Little says the support from the community and the foundation has been incredible. He knew Bertram, so knowing that his family was involved, as well as his former colleague, was inspiring, he said.
“Just getting to know everyone involved, just their passion, and seeing their son’s legacy move forward is just inspiring,” Little said.
For Pendleton, donating Skye to his old department is a satisfying moment.
“It’s a huge sense of satisfaction and completion,” he said.
When Pendleton was with the department, he and Little were on patrol, and they floated the idea of restarting the K-9 program. That didn’t happen, however.
“Now Little, as chief, has been able to convince the city council and reinstate the program,” he said. “…Being the only one who can supply the dog to my old agency, it’s come full circle.”
Being able to help the department buy and train Kira, the second K-9, was an added bonus, he said. The foundation strives to assist police departments with K-9s as equipped and ready as possible.
“We try to create a culture in the community through the foundation that we’re here to help everyone and we want to help people succeed,” Pendleton said.
As long as Little is chief, Edinburgh will continue to have a K-9 programme, and he will expand it if the need arises.
“It’s the best tool we have in the fight against narcotics,” Little said. “If we can get dealers and do drugs on the street, we’ll save a life.”